It wasn’t pretty but Canada’s men soccer coach Stephen Hart had to be satisfied with the outcome of last Friday’s World Cup qualifier against St. Lucia at BMO Field.
In a game that lacked rhythm because of regular stoppages for the medical staff to treat St. Lucian players for an assortment of injuries, the national side prevailed 4-1 with three of the goals coming in the second half.
Canada opened the scoring in the sixth minute with Josh Simpson scoring the first of two goals. St. Lucia netted the equalizer a minute later when Tremain Paul’s low right foot shot from about 35 metres out on the left flank beat goalkeeper Lars Hirschfeld to the far left post.
The national side’s failure to capitalize on numerous scoring opportunities in the first stanza frustrated Hart.
“We just did not show patience and composure in that half,” said the Trinidad & Tobago-born coach. “You can’t just be throwing yourself around without thinking about the end product. We were marginally better in the second half when we got the goals and we are just happy to start with a win.
“The ball movement was good in the second half, but I was not happy with the flow of the game. Every time we seemed to be finding our rhythm and began moving the ball well, the game would be stopped. It was frustrating.”
St. Lucia’s coach Alain “Porsche” Providence felt his players might have been overwhelmed by the crowd of close to11,500.
“This is the first time that most of them would have performed before a crowd of this size and in a setting of this magnitude,” he said. “The atmosphere was unprecedented and I think some of our guys were swept up in the moment. It took away from their focus on the game.”
With St. Lucia rebuilding its soccer program, this was the first big test for a young team whose average age is 24. Skipper Guy George, 34, is the team’s oldest player while midfielder Zaine Pierre, who is on trial with Italy’s Serie “A” club Genoa, and striker Eden Charles are the youngest members at age 18.
“What we have here is a work in progress,” said Providence. “Hopefully, we will learn from our mistakes and perform better the next time. I am happy with the result even though we came here aiming for a draw.”
Had it not been for 26-year-old goalkeeper Iran Casssius’ stellar play in net behind an undisciplined defence, Canada’s margin of victory could have been wider.
“I am really proud of what he did,” said Providence. “He’s very experienced and he enjoys the pressure. That showed tonight.”
The two teams meet in the return fixture on October 7 at Beausejour Stadium which can accommodate up to 13,000 spectators.
Providence expects about 1,000 fans will show up for the contest.